Juliette Rowsell, The Gryphon’s Digital Associate, gives herself a break from website headaches, reviewing Kate O’Donnell’s bare-all performance in her play, You’ve Changed.
In 2003, Coronation Street featured its first gay kiss. It is also the year that Kate O’Donnell, tonight’s host, decided to transition. At the heart of her heart-warming and charm-filled performance, is the question of change. While it’s clear she has, the real question is: how much as a society have we changed? You’ve Changed is brimming with charisma, and Kate is the wonderful host in our own journey of realisation.
Transgender issues are currently, as Kate tells us, ‘a fad’. From attempting to tell her vegan lesbian cousin about her transition, to the opp, to the sexism she now faces as a woman, Kate takes us through the story of her transition without censorship. While the themes dealt with are nothing original in transgender theatre, it is the charm that Kate injects into the performance that captivates us from start to finish.
It is a performance that bares all: ‘people are obsessed with your genitals if you’re transgender’. Thus, as she stands behind a screen with two windows in it, she humorously deals with this obsession as she exposes her genitals on stage for everyone to see. While it is funny, it is also poignant. As an audience member is made to read out personal questions to Kate’s vagina, you can’t help but feel Kate is reclaiming the trans narrative. She talks about how transgender roles in television and film are stereotyped as alcoholics, prostitutes, or depressed (‘or even all three!’), and although the performance is rooted in struggle, it is told in a way that is empowering; while being transgender in 2017 is to be faced with institutionalised transphobia, not every story has to have an unhappy ending. And it is these stories that need telling.
‘Transgender issues are currently, as Kate tells us, ‘a fad’. From attempting to tell her vegan lesbian cousin about her transition, to the opp, to the sexism she now faces as a woman, Kate takes us through the story of her transition without censorship.’
What makes the show is not the gimmicks or the dance or the visual transformation from Fred Astaire to Ginger Rodgers, but Kate herself. Her charm and ability to engage with the audience carries the slightly cornier moments; indeed, she doesn’t need to don the persona of all the fabulous women from times long gone, for it is she that we fall head over high heels for.
In Kate’s own words, this is a story that soars from ‘aqua aerobics to horse riding to penetrative sex’, and it is a performance that leaves you feeling that little bit warmer than when you came in as a result of Kate’s fiery and energetic performance.
(Image courtesy of Northern Soul)